Teachers and child care workers will get priority for COVID-19 vaccine next in Wisconsin, tentatively becoming eligible for shots starting March 1 depending on vaccine supply, the state Department of Health Services said Tuesday.
The department’s plan for phase 1b of vaccination, which also includes groups such as grocery store workers and people in group homes, follows recommendations last week from the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee.
Frontline health care workers, along with residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, have been in phase 1a, which started last month. The state previously approved police officers, firefighters and corrections workers for phase 1b, and last week said people 65 and older were eligible starting this week.
The new groups cleared for shots March 1 will add about 600,000 people to the 700,000 older adults approved this week and roughly 500,000 people in phase 1a, said Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary of the state health department. Whether the new groups will be able to start March 1 will depend on how much vaccine Wisconsin gets from the federal government, she said.
“If our allocation increases, then we’ll be able to move up that date,” Willems Van Dijk said. “If it decreases, we may have to postpone it.”
Educators and child care workers, including K-12 teachers and staff and higher education instructors and staff who have direct contact with students.
- People in Medicaid long-term care programs, including those with disabilities in the Family Care and IRIS programs.
- Essential workers including 911 dispatchers and workers in public transit, utilities and the food chain, from farmers and food processors to grocery store workers and those at food pantries.
- Non-frontline health care essential personnel, such as workers in public health, emergency management and hospital cyber security.
- Congregate living facility staff and residents, such as people in group homes, prisons, jails and shelters.
The state’s 300 or so mink farmers are also included in an attempt to prevent spread of the coronavirus from people to mink or mink to people, and to reduce the risk of creating new mutations, state officials said.
Such groups will get injections from their health care providers, pharmacies, local health departments, workplaces or mass vaccination clinics, the state health department said. Local health departments, such as Public Health Madison and Dane County, are coordinating some efforts.
Madison School District plan
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce complained that manufacturing workers, who are slated for phase 1c by the state but were included in a federal plan for phase 1b, were not included in Wisconsin’s phase 1b.
“It is disheartening that prisoners were put ahead of manufacturing workers,” Kurt Bauer, the group’s CEO, said in a statement. “Manufacturers have been essential to Wisconsin’s response to this virus for nearly a year — including modifications to produce critical medical supplies and personal protective equipment.”
Willems Van Dijk said inmates were prioritized because of their high risk of exposure and the potential for prison outbreaks to spread to workers and others outside prisons. “Outbreaks in a prison have an effect on the community as well,” she said.
Information posted by the Madison School District last week said that when teachers and staff become eligible, they will be emailed a link to put their names into a lottery of people to be vaccinated through Public Health Madison and Dane County.
Staff will be notified by groups, the district said, starting with nurses, physical therapists and related staff. The second group includes custodians, food service workers, principals and staff assigned to child care.
Those groups will be followed by other elementary school staff, other middle school staff, other high school staff and then central office staff and others not signed up.
“The district plans to notify all staff, in this order, of the opportunity to register in one day,” the district said on its website.
School risk low, study says
Meanwhile, a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday found just seven of 191 COVID-19 cases at 17 schools in Wood County resulted from in-school transmission. Students and staff in the schools wore masks most of the time, researchers said.
“Although asymptomatic transmission is possible, this study demonstrated that, with precautions in place, in-school transmission of (COVID-19) appeared to be uncommon in this rural Wisconsin community, despite up to a 40% positive (COVID-19) test rate in the surrounding county,” the researchers wrote.
The state health department said the 70,000 first doses of vaccine currently allocated to Wisconsin each week does not meet the demand requested by the state’s more than 1,200 registered vaccine providers.
Wisconsin has administered 362,505 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, including 69,077 booster shots to people fully immunized with two doses. The state ranks near the bottom among states in doses given per capita, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Willems Van Dijk said Wisconsin had to put more of its initial vaccine doses aside for the state’s higher proportion of residents in assisted living facilities, where vaccination began in earnest this week. The state, facing a limited supply for others, didn’t set up mass vaccination clinics early on as some other states did, though such clinics are planned, she said.